Volvo Cars has officially kicked off Drive Me, an advanced public autonomous driving (AD) experiment. On the morning of 9 September 2016, Volvo produced the first autonomous car that will be used in the Drive Me project in Gothenburg.
The autonomous Volvo XC90 SUV was finalised in Volvo Cars' special manufacturing facility in Torslanda and is the first in a series of autonomous cars that will eventually be handed to real owners in Gothenburg to be driven on public roads. The company says it believes the introduction of AD technology will to reduce car accidents. Furthermore, AD technology promises to free up congested roads, reduce pollution and allow drivers to use their time in their cars more valuably.
Volvo currently offers a semi-autonomous functionality called Pilot Assist on its 90 series cars. Pilot Assist gives gentle steering inputs to keep the car properly aligned within lane markings up to 130 km/h without the need to follow another car. The Drive Me cars will add hands-off and feet-off capability in special autonomous drive zones around Gothenburg, powered by what Volvo calls its Autonomous Driving Brain.
It is the customer-focused approach that Volvo says sets the Drive Me project apart from other autonomous driving experiments. Instead of relying purely on the research of its own engineers, Volvo aims to collect feedback and input from real customers using these autonomous cars in their everyday lives. The company aims to further fine-tune its autonomous driving technologies and make its offering as relevant as possible to customers ahead of a commercial introduction around 2021.
After rolling off the production line, the Drive Me customer cars will undergo a rigorous testing phase to ensure that the cars' advanced autonomous driving technology functions exactly as it should. Once this testing phase, overseen by Volvo's engineers, is finalised, the cars will be handed over to the customers participating in the Drive Me pilot project.
The Drive Me pilot project in Gothenburg is the first in a number of planned public trials with autonomous driving Volvo cars. A similar project to the one in Gothenburg will be launched in London next year, while Volvo is also assessing bids from interested cities in China to launch a Drive Me project there within the next few years.
Last month, Volvo launched a new partnership with ride-sharing company Uber to jointly develop the next generation of autonomous driving cars. Earlier this week, Volvo revealed it will set up a new jointly-owned company together with automotive supplier Autoliv to develop next generation autonomous driving software.